After much anticipation, the SRA has announced changes to legal education and training for solicitors in England and Wales. The reforms, some of which have already come into force, represent a complete reshuffle of training and professional development for solicitors. So, what has changed and what are the effects?
The new SRA Training Regulations 2014, which came into force on 1 July 2014, replace the 2011 rules on student enrolment and pre-qualification training . The key changes are as follows:
There is no longer a restriction on the number of trainees each firm can take on. Previously, the rules were two trainees per partner or solicitor with 5 years or more post-qualification experience. Firms can now recruit as many trainees as they wish, of course whilst ensuring compliance with the supervision requirements in the SRA Code of Conduct.
It is no longer a requirement that a Training Principal has four consecutive practising certificates.
The SRA is no longer involved in the training contract between the firm and the trainee. Although the trainee will still need to undertake a period of ‘recognised training’, the contract will be treated as an employment contract and the term ‘training contract’ will cease to be used. The benefit of this is that the contracts do not have to be registered with the SRA.
‘Training establishments’ have been rebranded ‘authorised training providers’.
Trainees no longer have to be given experience of both contentious and non-contentious work. Smaller, niche firms that have previously had to rely on sending their trainees on secondment to another firm will probably find this reform a welcome relief. However, it is important to remember that a well-rounded solicitor is likely to need experience in a wide range of practice areas. It would also be wise to consider that many trainees are yet to discover their strengths and so a breadth of experience will help with the learning curve.
CPD- ‘Continuing Competence’
The SRA has replaced the CPD regime with a scheme based on self-certification. The reforms do not come into force fully until 1st November 2016, however firms will be able to opt-in to the new ‘continuing competence’ scheme from February 2015. Unlike the CPD regime, continuing competence does not require an arbitrary minimum of 16 hours training per year. The new system expects solicitors (and their firms) to assess their own competence and training requirements
In addition, as of November 2014 there is no longer the requirement that 25% of CPD must be from an accredited training provider. No more dashing around for codes at the end of conferences!
There has been some alarm expressed at the level of trust being placed on the profession to take responsibility for their own professional development. However, most in the profession will understand the importance of keeping up-to-date. Will some firms use this as an opportunity to cut the training budget? Possibly, but these are the same firms that were probably bending the rules and did not offer useful training opportunities in any event.
Remember, you will need to continue to record CPD hours until November 2016, unless your firm opts-in to the continuing competence scheme sooner.
If you would like any more information regarding the new legal education and training regulations, you can contact us at email@example.com!